PC ¦ PlayStation 3 ¦ Xbox 360 ¦ Wii ¦ DS ¦ PSP ¦ Others ¦ DGC Grade Table

The Orange Box PC DVD

Published by: Valve
Developed by: Valve
Release Date: Out Now

So you go into a game shop, browse the available software on display and pick up the title that catches your eye. You look at the back of the box to find that a certain website/newspaper/magazine has claimed the game is the greatest thing since sliced bread and you, being the cynic you are, think it’s all a load of rubbish. After all, would the publishers bother printing comments like ‘Disappointing’ or ‘It’s the same as last year’s game’? The answer of course is no. There are rare exceptions when those comments are actually spot on. Looking on the back of The Orange Box title there’s a comment that reads ‘The best deal in videogame history’ and in all truth it’s difficult to argue against that statement.

The Orange Box contains Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2 Episode Two, Portal and Team Fortress 2. The Orange Box gives gamers the chance to bring themselves up to date with the Half-Life 2 story. When Half-Life 2 was released, the game became an instant classic and many still regard it as the ultimate PC FPS. The Half-Life games have never been run and gun shooters. You actually have to think about what you’re doing and how you approach a given situation. Half-Life 2 added the Gravity Gun that allows you to pick up all kinds of items and then fire them as your weapons (as well as solve numerous environmental puzzles in the game), which really added a whole new dimension to the FPS genre. In fact the Gravity Gun has been mimicked in a few FPS titles since Half-Life 2 was released.

Half-Life 2 continues the story of Gordon Freeman and his battle to save the Earth from an alien infestation that was triggered by the accident Gordon was involved with at the Black Mesa research facility. We certainly won’t give any spoilers away here but the game was exceptional. Half-Life 2: Episode One continues the story. In truth Episode One was disappointing to some degree. Many considered it to be far too short and not quite up to the same high standards of Half-Live 2. Half-Life 2: Episode Two continues the storyline and is not only a longer episode than Episode One; it’s also a far better experience and is another top drawer FPS offering from Valve.

Portal is far from filler content and could have easily stood on its own as an original and impressive gaming experience. Essentially, Portal is a puzzle game played from a first-person perspective. You play as a woman in an orange jumpsuit that awakens in a laboratory. Essentially you have to go through a series of test chambers making your way from the start point to the exit point. You’ll have to make use of portals to get from start to finish however. For the most part, you’ll get to place these portals yourself by using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. The challenge comes from the fact that you’ll have to makes use of the portals to solve puzzles. This starts off simply be moving boxes around but it soon becomes much more complex. Once you’re done with the main game there are advanced maps and challenges to undertake (the challenges are rather fiendish). It’s difficult to put into words just how innovative Portal really is. It’s a whole new gaming experience that really must be played to be fully appreciated.

Team Fortress 2 is the sequel to Team Fortress, the game that really started the whole class-based multiplayer gaming craze many years ago now. Long awaited, the game has gone through various transitions during its development process. The end result though is rather impressive. There are three different classes that each has three characters. The Offense class offers the Scout, Soldier and Pyro (who wields a flamethrower). The Defence class offers the Demoman, Heavy Weapons Guy and Engineer. Finally the Support class has the Medic, Sniper and Spy (who can use an invisibility cloak) as its playable characters. The game offers two game types with Capture the Flag and Control Point (where your team will attempt to capture and hold the control points on a map) and there are six different maps to select from, which might not seem like much but each map has different zones and their own unique feel and they are all great to play on.

When it was released on the PC back in 2004 Half-Life 2 was a great looking game and to be fair, when you run the game on its highest graphical settings, it still does. Of course it's not state of the art anymore but that's to be expected seeing as we're now three years later. The character models still look impressive and the facial animations are still up there with the best ones we’ve seen in any game since Half-Life 2 first arrived on the PC three years ago. The visual quality of Episode One, Episode Two and Portal is on a par with Half-Life 2, which is no surprise since they all use the same graphics engine. Team Fortress 2 on the other hand looks very different. Valve went for a cartoon look and it looks great. What I really like about Team Fortress 2 is the over the top graphical style that’s been used for the various classes and they look excellent.

Half-Life 2 was definitely one of the best games we’ve seen in regards for how well it caters for deaf gamers. The game offered extensive captioning and really allowed deaf gamers to enjoy an FPS in a way that hadn’t been possible before. Episode One and Episode Two are also closed captioned and likewise they are great for deaf gamers. Episode Two does have an introductory movie that isn’t subtitled, which seems a little odd but it's forgivable seeing as this is the only blip in an otherwise superb show of support for deaf gamers. Portal also has closed captions and is great for deaf gamers. Team Fortress 2 also offers closed captions but these are only for the developer’s commentaries. The closed captions in all of the games are disabled by default.

The Orange Box is simply outstanding value for money. Unless you have an aversion to FPS games then there is no way that you should miss out on this superb collection of games. Those who have to find fault will point to the absence of Counter-Strike: Source but there are just so many high quality titles here that it would be insulting to complain. Half-Life 2 and its two expansions alone would have made this a superb product. Factor in the superb Portal and the addictive Team Fortress 2 and you have a superb product that showcases Valve in the best possible way. You could say that The Orange Box is pure gold.

Overall Game Rating 10/10

Deaf Gamers Classification

DGC Classification A
(Click the letter or here for details)